Thursday, 9 August 2007

Faith of An Atheist? Debunking the Myth of Faith & Its Apparent Need As A Social Necessity

The death of Faith?

As an atheist, I find myself having to, every once in a while, muster futile attempts to explain God/Gods/Deities in relation to the natural world around us. As far as atheists are concerned, we live our lives as reasonable, rational individuals, and most of us view religion with some amount of contempt because of its inference to ancient, archaic scribes which hold no basis of truth nor bearing with regards to the progress of human civilization and science.

Yet, because of our non-beliefs, we are considered to be "people of the faith". Strange, argument, huh? The Christian's argument goes along a certain, convoluted train of thought:

1. The Universe and our existence has to commence at some starting point.

2. This starting point is God.

3. To disagree or refute the existence of God requires more faith than to believe in God, since it is almost impossible for us to exist without a definite First Cause (God).

Such a postulated argument is crude: It assumes that a non-belief stance in atheist is an ultimate exhibition of faith, based solely on baseless claims that a mystifying, patriarchal, invisible father must exist to set everything in motion.

The Sinister Meaning of Faith

A closer study of the word "Faith" will allow me to elucidate the impotence of such a moralistic trait.

According to the Oxford's Dictionary:

• noun 1 complete trust or confidence. 2 strong belief in a religion. 3 a system of religious belief.

Faith, in its most common usage, alludes to a inherent system of beliefs that are inanely religious in nature. Such beliefs are rather dogmatic: You believe in a system of religious beliefs not on the basis of any evidence of any kind. Rather, your beliefs stem from a complete trust or confidence in a set or subset of beliefs, and invariably these beliefs tend to wound up towards one goal: God.

Because theists cannot rely on evidence or scientific data to validate their beliefs, they invariably rely on faith to justify their stances. Without an absolutist, rigid belief in the dogmas of heaven, hell, the Original Sin or other similar hogwash, any church would find it almost impossible to sustain a large enough congregation for any extended period of time.

Faith In Action: How Faith Fucks Up Your Everyday Life

I am also told, by Christians no less, that we live our lives via faith, irregardless of our religious affiliations or lack of. I shall attempt to debunk such a debauched argument with regards to the "complete trust or confidence" definition of faith.

Allow me to use the following illustration: Let's just say I am buying a new laptop. I ask the dealer to demonstrate to me the various functions of the laptop, fiddle with it a little, and after a satisfactory review, I decide to buy it. Upon the purchase, I will keep the receipt, submit the warranty card to the manufacturer, and proceed to install the necessary software, assured with the knowledge that the laptop is in tip-top condition, but nonetheless keeping a close watch for any signs of malfunction.

Now, will I be silly enough to say, hey, I have complete faith in my dealer, that this laptop is going to function just fine, and therefore proceeds to purchase the model I am looking for without checking, and just to emphasize my great leap of faith, I proceed to dump the receipt and warranty card in the bin after the transaction is complete? Such a naive train of thought and action would delight many a unscrupulous businessman. In reality, such customers rarely exist, unless, of course, you are referring to the flock of a very large religious congregation (Hint: Think Pat Robertson).

Allow me to go one step further. Suppose I am a human resources consultant. I have been tasked with an assignment: To hire an experienced manager to run a chemicals factory. Will I rely on complete trust and confidence to hire a new guy? Obviously not. I will probably have to run through his CV, peruse his paper qualifications, and perhaps even go as far as to do a cursory background check on him (wouldn't want a potential terrorist to run a chemicals factory!).

If faith is one of the obligatory virtues of a systematic, working world, we'd be served by morons and hucksters and disreputable idiots of all shapes and sizes, and if world events are anything to go by, faith-based initiatives are some of the worst thought-of, awful propagandas ever to make its rounds in government policies.

Abstinence/Faith-Based Programs: Fucking Up the Show

When issues of faith gets muddled with politics, the end result is often disastrous: Bush's little jib-jab with God gave him the impetus to send his erstwhile Crusade in Iraq, and the results are, well, not very encouraging, to say the least (To be blunt, he fucked up the entire show.).

That aside, other "faith-based" initiatives, such as Bush's well-touted abstinence programs aimed at teaching the youth of America to abstain from sex, has been derided for its impotency at reducing STDs and teen pregnancies (link here).

In one of my earlier posts (link here), I wrote about sex as a legitimate, human need, not some kind of heinous, criminal act which must be strung high beyond the reach of sexually-matured human beings. It is a good thing, of course, to preach abstinence amongst teenagers: After all, they are still a little too "green" for the real "fun". But hey, who are we to dictate what youngsters do?

That said, a comprehensive sex education must provide alternatives to mere abstinence. If teenagers want to engage in sexual activity, there is a need to address the issue at face value, which means providing vital information, such as the use of condoms, contraceptives and other important measures for our youths to protect themselves.

Unfortunately, as is usually the case, whenever the issue of faith crops up, common sense is thrown right out of the window. According to abstinence groups who advocate no-sex only policies, condoms and contraceptives are bad for teenagers. Why? Oh, religion and God forbids them, that's why. In Catholic-dominated African countries, lies about leaky condoms and other scary, moronic tales (the one about masturbation causing people to go blind often drives me into a laughing frenzy. If only people are not so gullible....) are bantered about as gospel truth, which is almost senseless, considering the terrible spread of the AIDS epidemic in these impoverished countries. And to add to the ludicrousness of it all, a chiefly mortal issue has to contend with the whims of a imagined, psychotic deity.

As far as faith is concerned, it is like the perverted version of the Midas Touch: Everything it touches seems to degenerate into filthy, dirty scum.

Faith: Over-hyped, Detrimental to the Thinking, Rational Mind

In short, faith is a over-hyped and under-used trait: It can only be used in the context of servile, uninformed religious beliefs, and is often used in hucksterish, sinister means by fraudsters who care naught for the sheep they fleeced.

No one in the sane, secular world can apply the "complete trust and confidence" mode in any conceivable setting, whether it is in working life or school life. Sure, we can trust people and governments within a specific framework (there is, after all, no reason for you not to trust the cashier, but you'd still count your change, don't you???), but that kind of conditional trust cannot be equated with blind faith. Just as you do not vote for Presidents based on mere faith, one should not be expected to believe in silly myths and doctrines based on this largely baseless, servile and nonsensical trait.

By denying the human being's ability to assume a position of decision-making, faith makes a complete mockery out of its practitioners by emphasizing entirely on the basis of beliefs in the form of complete trust or confidence.

Fuck Faith!

Faith as a form of moral necessity? Fuck it! In fact, I would go further to emphasize that faith is not only immoral, it breeds complacency, ignorance and worst, fraudsters who would seize any failure in the thinking faculties of the masses to unleash their weapons of mass deception.

-Faith is the surrender of the mind; it's the surrender of reason, it's the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It's our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.

-Christopher Hitchens, On Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Season 3, Episode 5: "Holier Than Thou"


L>T said...

faith is the only place that God can exist for the modern man.

breakerslion said...

"Unfortunately, as is usually the case, whenever the issue of faith crops up, common sense is thrown right out of the window."

This is deliberate. One cannot create sufficient uncertainty to short-circuit a follower's brain and erode self-confidence by agreeing with what makes sense. One must instead come up with elaborate reasons why it does not make sense, and then harp on those reasons in an endless litany to "legitimize" them through repetition.

"If faith is one of the obligatory virtues of a systematic, working world, we'd be served by morons and hucksters and disreputable idiots of all shapes and sizes..."

Um... er... have you heard about the "Old Boy Network", the concept of the "Pointy-haired Boss" (Dilbert), and taken a hard look at the gravy-sucking pigs at the top of the corporate food chain? Don't even get me started about those "selfless", "public servants" in politics.

Meursault said...

Hi my bro from across the causeway!

Interesting stuff. I shall be linking my blog to yours.

Anonymous said...

Your whole argument is built on a false representation of Christian faith, and therefore you have just created a strawman and beat it.

The biblical, Christian faith is never a 'blind faith', but a faith that is based on evidence. Which is pretty much similar to the analogy of the laptop purchase you'd used.

Consider the vast amount of miracles and signs that the Gospel writers referred to in proving the deity of Christ. Or the constant references to the miracles of God in delivering the Israelites out of Egypt.

You may disagree with the miracles in specific, but you cannot label this as 'blind faith'. There is an attempt to base our belief on some form of evidence.

When we said that everyone exercises faith to some extent in every aspect of life, we are trying to illustrate certain things very foundational.

For example, why do you trust your senses? How do you know that you are not being deceived by some kind of illusion? How do you know you are now looking at a computer?

Simply: you have faith in your empirical senses, though they have proven to be false before. However, since it is beyond a reasonable doubt that it is malfunctioning right now, you decided this faith in your senses is well-placed.

To debate the validity of religious 'faith', you should focus on evaluating if their faith (whether Christian or Muslim) is reasonable enough. You should weigh their arguments, instead of just labelling their belief as 'blind faith'.

To illustrate further, when you quoted from "Oxford's Dictionary" for your definition, you are already exercising faith in what the Oxford experts is defining for you. How do you know if they are right? How do you know if the Christians are sharing the same definition? But instead, you built a whole argument based on your assumptions. Such is a fallacious argument that cannot stand scrutiny.

BEAST FCD said...

Well, Anonymous:

This is probably one of the longer posts I have received, so here goes:

There is a marked difference between "trust" and faith. Trust requires a litmus test of sorts before it becomes reliable enough, while faith is an unquestioning trait whereby someone is required to believe in a phenomenon in the absence of evidence or proof.

When I am using empirical evidence, I use it not because I have faith in it. It is the standard, acceptable measuring protocol, and the whole idea of standardizing empirical data works. Simple as that. No faith need to be invoked.

Hope I make myself clear enough.

Beast FCD

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are clear enough, but you also showed very clearly that you fail to see the distinction between 'blind faith' and 'biblical faith'.

'Biblical faith' is pretty much like how you described 'trust'. So, when Christians say that everyone exercise faith to some extent, you can well interpret that as saying we "trust" our senses. In this sense, we exercise a certain degree of 'faith' (trust, if you like) in our senses.

I made the point earlier that our senses can be wrongly interpreted (illusions, hysteria, etc). But unless the evidence contrary is strong enough, we trust what they're telling us.

In short, 'biblical faith' is not blind. If it's blind, it's not biblical. So you're attacking a strawman.

"When I am using empirical evidence, I use it not because I have faith in it. It is the standard, acceptable measuring protocol, and the whole idea of standardizing empirical data works. Simple as that. No faith need to be invoked."

No true. You still need to 'believe' that it is 'standard', 'acceptable', and that it 'works'. Not that it is none of the above.

This is metacognitive thinking, or epistemology (theory of knowledge): thinking about how you think.

Hope it helps.

BEAST FCD said...

Faith is by definition, blind: The standard definition of faith is belief without evidence. So there you go.

You are right to highlight that our senses may not be 100% correct: Which is why people sometimes see ghosts, suffer from hallucinations, and so on. That is why we depend and rely on Science and technology to decipher a lot of things that are not within our capabilities, such as, say, a thermometer to measure temperature.

While I may believe that Science works, I need not invoke "blind faith", and in a way, I don't even need to invoke belief because the evidence is there to show you that it works. That's there is to it.

Like I highlighted in this post, and so agreed by Christopher Hitchens, faith is a overtly overhyped trait: It is simply quite useless (and most likely inherited from childhood), and if we adults started running around based on nothing but blind faith we'd all be victims of all manner of crooks and charlatans.

Beast FCD

Anonymous said...

Dear Beast,

Again you're not reading me correctly. Perhaps some Christians (Pentacostals? Charismatics?) gave you the impression that the Christian 'faith' is blind?

What I'm arguing here is that the content of the Biblical definition of faith is anything but blind. It is trust supported by valid reasons. The Bible condemns blind faith as much as you do. In fact, common sense tells you that we should not go "running around based on nothing but blind faith".

I assume you met very poor specimens of religious people, but you should not take the part for the whole. Historical Christianity placed very high premium on both faith and reason. Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas are famous thinkers in church history that has shaped Western civilisation. It is unfair, not to say inaccurate, to relegate the whole Christian faith as mere blind faith.

When asked if Jesus was the Christ, He replied, "The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me." (John 10:25). The reliability of the gospels was based on eye-witnesses' accounts (see 1 John 1:1-3). Peter said, "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the coming and power of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty." (2 Peter 1:16)

The atheist position/strategy in regard to Christ should be to dispute the validity of the evidences that Christianity posits, instead of simplistically dismissing the Christian faith as 'blind' and 'without evidence'. If you persist, we won't get anywhere, because I can totally agree with your disagreement with blind faith and still insists that the Christian faith is not blind.

To help you understand the logic (and risk sounding repetitive), the word 'faith' in the Bible is not originally in English. It is translated into 'faith'. So, what is more important for our discussion here is what the Bible defines as faith (hence the content of 'biblical faith'), rather than what Oxford or any other English dictionary defines.

As for your analogy about accepting what science says, what I see is that we still need to 'trust' the interpretation of evidence that scientists offers, before we take what they say as true. We take a thermometer reading as having a higher certitude than our feelings/senses, which is why we rather trust the thermometer. But this is still an exercise of 'trust' (the thermometer could be faulty for all you know).

In short, you are arguing for a dichotomy between 'faith' and 'reason', and I'm arguing that it is a false dichotomy.

Hope it clarifies the issue.

Anonymous said...

The most humorous part of this blog is the fact that you, as an atheist, are wasting your time moaning on about something you don't believe in.
Consider: if you don't believe in any kind of god or afterlife, why are you wasting your time pouring so much effort into the topic?
I think it is the Church of Dawkins that came up with the slogan:
"There's probably no god. So stop worrying and live your life."
Maybe you should take your leader's advice, stop worrying, and live your life.
Or is this too rational?